CELA stands for Certified Elder Law Attorney. The certification is provided by the National Elder Law Foundation.
A CELA certification is important because it demonstrates that the attorney has achieved a level of experience and knowledge across a full range of elder law subjects. Some attorneys may claim to work in elder law, but their elder law experience can just be limited to a small area of their practice where they only have familiarity with a small set of elder law related circumstances. A CELA certification indicates an ability to recognize and act upon the whole spectrum of elder law issues a client may be facing. Not only are CELAs required to devote a substantial portion of their practice to elder law, they also have extensive knowledge of available resources for elder law clients that go beyond the courtroom. Ultimately, having a CELA handle your elder law matter provides peace of mind that any potential elder law issues will not be overlooked.
To become a CELA, an attorney must first be licensed to practice law in at least one state or the District of Columbia for at least five years and be a member in good standing wherever they are licensed to practice law. Additionally, a CELA must have spent at least an average of 16 hours per week working in elder law, handled at least 60 elder law cases dealing with various elder law subjects, and participated in at least 45 hours of elder law continuing education in the previous three years. Finally, a CELA must have provided specific references and passed a full day examination. To remain a CELA, an attorney must renew their qualifications every five years. A CELA certification is relatively rare. There are just over 400 CELAs nationwide and currently only fourteen CELAs practicing in the state of Missouri.
Note: while the American Bar Association (ABA) recognizes the CELA certification, neither the Missouri Supreme Court nor the Missouri Bar reviews or approves certifications, organizations, or specialist designations.